The ABC of Scheduled Obsolescence
Have you ever wondered, how come almost everything you buy these days last very little compared to products people used to buy through the decades of the 40´s to the 70´s? Have you heard the expression “they don´t make it today like they used to”?
The answer is simple, no. Why is this? Because it is been applied the doctrine of the scheduled obsolescence or planned obsolescence. So, what is it?
The scheduled obsolescence or planned obsolescence it is a method used to determine the useful life of any product in the market by its makers, guaranteeing a constant demand on such products.
An example of this concept, it is the light bulb, at first manufactured to last countless hours, but today a good quality light bulb it´s expected to last a thousand hours or so. Proof of this is the Centennial Light, burning since 1901 at 4550 East Avenue, Livermore, California.
The concept looks very simple, but it implies more than meets the eye.
A.- When did it start?
The concept, dates back to 1932, when Bernard London, a russian-american real estate broker, presented a report titled “Ending the depression through planned obsolescence”, as a solution to the depression that went the U.S. economy since 1929 and extended through the 1930´s. This was London´s lead document to back his doctrine of “The New Prosperity”.
He stated that in our society´s economy there is a necessity of destroying some of our wealth in order to increase it. He supported the idea, that through this process of creating material goods only to destroy it, people live and function.
To London, it didn´t matter whether you need it or not, while you buy it and later destroy it after a brief period of use.
B.- How scheduled obsolescence affects the environment and society
The primordial environmental problem caused by scheduled obsolescence is the number of natural resources used to produce the goods designed to experiment a short period of use. In many cases, materials can´t be recycled, so there come two important issues to consider:
- Most of the natural resources used as raw material are non-renewable, and the long-term effect of this situation it will be the depletion of raw material, which depending on the case, could lead to a very dangerous crossroad to the environment, causing an unbalance in nature.
- Sometime in the future, we won´t be able to process the waste left by a constant, unnecessary and accelerated replacement of equipment on the false premise that´s how people live and function.
Besides the environmental problem, scheduled obsolescence it´s having a negative impact on society, forcing the people to invest an important amount of their income in goods probably they don´t need.
Somehow, this consumption madness drives people to alter their value scale and fall into a consumption spiral that makes people buy things they don´t need on the belief they can´t live without it, and that has a terrible effect on society.
C.- Is it scheduled obsolescence good or bad.
As stated on the previous points A and B, scheduled obsolescence promotes rampant consumption, and consumption foster indebtedness, which in the end leads to financial troubles even bankruptcy, so as you may have noticed, the setbacks outrun the benefits, always in favor of the capital and never the consumer.
In the end, consumption does not drive society, it is greed and that is the true fuel of scheduled obsolescence and far from moving society, trouble it.